“Drive like there’s an egg under your fuel pedal and you don’t want to break it.”
– Author unknown
An old-time trucker was once quoted as saying this was the best way for a truck driver to conserve fuel. Apply pressure to the gas pedal gently and conservatively. Use light pressure when increasing and decreasing speed, and you will enjoy better gas mileage.
Almost every truck driver has a way to save fuel and increase the miles per gallon ratio. Of course, some methods are tried and true. Others work for some but not others. Nevertheless, saving fuel is an important part of being a carrier and a basic means of increasing your bottom line.
Diesel fuel prices go up and down, and regardless of the price of diesel being up or down, fuel cost is a major factor in turning a profit while driving a truck. In fact, it’s no secret that fuel is the No. 1 expense when driving a truck, and there are several ways to increase fuel efficiency. Let’s take a look at some ways you can increase your fuel efficiencies.
Reduce Your Speed.
Many of the speed limits on highways and freeways have been increased in the U.S. over the years. Even for trucks, speed limits have continued to go up and up. While this does allow truck drivers to reach their destination in a shorter time period, the reward may not be worth the penalty.
On average, trucks will see the best fuel efficiency between 55 and 60 miles per hour (mph). That may be an unrealistic speed for most trucks, but keep this in mind:
For every 1-mile per hour increase in speed (generally above 60 mph), there is a corresponding .14-mile-per-gallon falloff in fuel efficiency.
For instance, a truck traveling at 65 mph will experience a fuel efficiency increase of about 27% compared to a truck traveling at 75 mph. Lower speeds reduce aerodynamic drag and decrease fuel consumption.
Keep in mind that safety risks increase if a truck travels much closer than other traffic, a problem that has been voiced by truck drivers. Drivers will also contend that slower speeds translate into less income. Speeds over 60 mph are greater in fuel economy loss than time savings.
Not only that, but higher speeds cause more wear and tear on engines and tires which certainly eat into business costs.
Download the Cost Per Mile Worksheet (pdf).
Consider How You’re Changing Gears.
Changing gears uses fuel, so it makes sense that how you’re changing gears can have a significant impact. These tips might help:
- Make sure you use progressive shifting techniques and shift efficiently.
- Use a combination of braking and shifting to slow down.
- Maintain as high a gear as possible.
- Stay 200-300 rpm below the governor at cruise.
Consider an Aerodynamic Package.
Using aerodynamic packages that reduce wind resistance will also help improve fuel efficiency. An aerodynamic profile tractor could save thousands of dollars in fuel costs each year over a classic long-nose tractor. Add-ons for the trailer could save an additional 5-7% in fuel economy benefit. Make sure to maintain as narrow a tractor-trailer gap as possible.
On flatbeds, use tarps, and smooth out the load as much as possible to make it more aerodynamic.
Tires, Tires, Tires!
Low-rolling resistance tires are a great improvement to a truck – both in wear on the tire and fuel efficiency. For every 3% rolling resistance improvement, you will likely see an increase of 1% fuel efficiency.
Single-wide tires can improve fuel efficiency by 4-8% and are lighter in weight. Single-wide tires also have lower maintenance and repair costs with less downtime, service time, and brake wear.
Keep tires inflated. Every 10 psi under-inflation can increase fuel consumption from 1% to 1.5%. Automatic tire inflation systems or a stringent tire maintenance program are the best way to ensure tires are properly inflated and can increase fuel efficiency.
Properly inflated tires also reduces wear on tires.
Low-viscosity lubricants can improve fuel economy by about 2%, while the new formulations have been know to increase efficiency by up to 4%.
Additional Facts & Information:
- Add a bottle of fuel injector cleaner to your tank every month. It will prolong the life of your engine.
- In the more northern states or Canadian provinces, mix an additive in with your fuel to prevent gelling during the colder months.
- Plan your trip. Fill up before heading into unknown areas or urban areas. Make sure not to run low on fuel, you don’t want to end up sitting on the side of the road.
- Diesel weighs approximately 7.2 pounds per gallon. If you are close to maxing out on weight, carry only partial tanks of fuel to reduce gross weight. Every 1,000 pounds in reduced weight improves fuel economy by about .4%.
- Look for truck stops with a point system. Some offer fuel discounts, in addition to discounts on retail items, free showers, and free parking.
- Shop fuel prices online (or use an app) to find the best prices before you start the route. Price shopping online can save a lot of money. Sometimes just crossing a state line to fill up can often save a good amount of cash.
- Reduce unnecessary idling to save money. Truck engines use about one gallon of fuel per hour when idling. Auxiliary power units use only .2 gallons per hour or less.
- In a headwind, reduce speed to 50-55 mph for best fuel efficiency. Headwinds are very hard on engine efficiency.